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Two wounded in shooting at high school

The attack occurred after a football game at Washington Prep. A girl, 12, and a former student, 19, were hit.

September 20, 2008|Jessica Garrison and Howard Blume | Times Staff Writers

A 12-year-old girl and a 19-year-old former student were shot and wounded Friday evening at a high school in an unincorporated area south of Los Angeles after a football game on campus, officials said.

The two victims were shot multiple times about 6 p.m. in the parking lot of the gymnasium at Washington Preparatory High School in Athens, said Susan Cox, a spokeswoman for the Los Angeles Unified School District. Both were taken to Harbor UCLA Medical Center, officials said.

The man was shot in the pelvis, buttocks and lower body, according to a district employee. The young girl was shot in the chest and left leg.

At least one shooter was seen running south from the school, near the intersection of West 108th Street and South Denker Avenue, Cox said. School police and Los Angeles County sheriff's deputies shut down several blocks around the campus as they searched neighborhood apartments, Cox said. The search was called off about 9 p.m. and residents were allowed to return to their homes.

Lt. Hector Rodriguez of L.A. Unified's school police said casings found at the scene might have come from two different guns.

Kevin Bailey was at the school to watch his son play in the football game. Bailey said he had said hello to the male victim shortly before the shooting.

Bailey said he saw a group of men walk up and exchange words with the victim, who had graduated from the school last year and was a star on the football team. Bailey said the men and the victim appeared to be roughhousing, and there was something about it that made him uncomfortable.

He said he went to pick up his wife and when he returned about five minutes later, there were police cars everywhere and the victim was on the ground.

"I panicked," he said. He said he saw a man "lying on the ground. . . . It's my worst fear."

Bailey said he immediately ran to see if his son was OK. He said he should have alerted authorities when he first sensed something was wrong.

"I'm sad and mad that I didn't call police," he said.

Security was already heightened for the game because of rising gang tensions in the neighborhood, said a district employee familiar with the investigation who did not want to be named because he was not authorized to speak.

There were reports earlier in the day of suspects with guns near the campus, so the school had extra officers on hand, he said.

A student was stabbed to death in the same parking lot in May, the employee said, noting that Washington Prep won the game Friday night against University High, a Westside school. "They don't want to come here from the Westside without security," he said.

Tammy Ward, 38, who lives in one of the apartment complexes that was searched by police about a block from the school, said crime is so bad in the neighborhood that her family avoids having barbecues and birthday parties outside.

"It's not safe for anybody," she said. "We have to do what we have to do until we are able to move."

School officials said the neighborhood has long had a problem with gangs.

"I've talked with one of the assistant principals, and she's in tears because they work so hard for the students over there," said Marguerite Poindexter LaMotte, the member of the L.A. Unified school board for that area. LaMotte was the school's principal before joining the board.

"I've been gone from Washington Prep almost nine years now, but I know that the gangs just plague the area. There are so many right there on the corner of 108th and Normandie."

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jessica.garrison@latimes.com

howard.blume@latimes.com

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